California home sales remain sluggish in February, prices rise for 36th straight month

California home sales fell slightly in February as buyers struggled with higher prices and a thin supply of properties for sale, a research firm reported Wednesday.

There were nearly 25,585 new and existing single-family houses and condominiums sold last month, down 0.4 percent from 25,680 sales a year earlier, said CoreLogic DataQuick. It was the lowest February sales tally since 2008.

The median sales price was $378,000, up 0.5 percent from $376,000 in January and up 6.5 percent year over year from $355,000 in February 2014.

It was also the 36th straight month of annual increases, though gains have moderated significantly since 2013.

Low inventories kept a lid on sales, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area and other coastal markets. There was a five-month supply of unsold single-family homes in the state in February, according to the California Association of Realtors. A normal supply is considered five to seven months.

Gary London, president of The London Group real-estate consulting firm in San Diego, said lack of land for new homes in coastal markets will continue to limit sales.

"These markets are fundamentally limited by the amount of units that builders can put up," he said. "There will always be more demand than supply, assuming coastal economies are strong and continue to grow."

Sales in inland markets are hampered by lack of wage growth and affordability concerns, London said

The median sales price in the San Francisco Bay was $565,000, down 1.2 percent from $572,000 in January but up 4.6 percent from $540,000 in February 2014, according to Irvine-based CoreLogic DataQuick. It was the 35th straight month of annual increases.

There were 4,376 homes sold in the nine-county region, down 11 percent from a year earlier. It was the lowest February sales tally in seven years.

The median sales price in Southern California was $415,000, up 1.5 percent from $409,000 in January and up 8.4 percent from $383,000 in February 2014. The median is little changed over the past five months.

There were 13,650 homes sold in the six-county region, down 2.7 percent from 14,027 sales a year earlier. Sales in the region have fallen from a year earlier in 15 of the last 17 months.